Skip to content

Posts from the "London Breed" Category

16 Comments

Pandering to the Parking-First Contingent Won’t Win Transport Funding

Some pretty specious rationales are being used to peddle some pretty terrible recent transportation policy decisions in San Francisco. Yesterday, the SFMTA Board of Directors repealed Sunday parking metering, caving to pressure from Mayor Ed Lee. Board members said they bought into the mayor’s thinking that bringing back free Sunday parking would help win support for transportation funding measures on the November ballot.

We’ve explained why the mayor’s claims of an anti-meter popular backlash are unfounded, as the real push appeared to come from church leaders. But at City Hall, this faulty strategy of backtracking on solid efforts to improve transit and street safety seems to be popular among among decision-makers besides the mayor. In another recent case of the city watering down a great project, the SFMTA downsized transit bulb-outs in the Inner Sunset to preserve parking for a vocal minority who complained. Supervisor London Breed basically said that tip-toeing around the parking-first contingent is necessary to ensure that voters approve new funding for transit improvements down the line.

“They’re pandering to a specific group of motorists — the loudest opponents — who are never going to support these programs,” said Jason Henderson, author of “Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.”

Supervisors Breed and Wiener debated the merits of pandering to cars-first voters last week. Photo left: Office of London Breed, Photo right: Aaron Bialick

At a supervisors committee meeting last week on the SFMTA’s budget, which relies heavily on the ballot measures to fund planned transit and safety improvements, Breed said she’s ”trying to understand how we’re going to convince voters, especially drivers, to spend a lot of money.”

Breed said that while city officials like her might understand the connection between making walking, biking, and transit more attractive and cutting congestion and parking demand, many voters may not be so savvy. ”We’re asking drivers to basically foot the bill for all of the improvements, and we’re taking away parking spaces, making things a lot more — what drivers believe, and have expressed in my district — more difficult,” Breed told SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin.

Breed also said she was concerned that the city doesn’t have a plan B for funding the Bicycle Strategy, the WalkFirst pedestrian strategy upgrades, and the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project. The three ballot measures would fund about half of the bicycle and pedestrian improvements called for, and most of the Muni TEP. “It sounds like we’re taking it for granted that this is actually going to pass,” said Breed.

Read more…

24 Comments

GG Bridge Toll Hikes Approved 15-2, Supes Campos and Breed Opposed

When the plan for much-needed toll hikes on the Golden Gate Bridge was approved Friday, the only opponents on the GG Bridge Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors were Supervisors David Campos and London Breed.

Supervisors David Campos and London Breed, the only members of the bridge board to vote against toll hikes. Photos: Board of Supervisors

All other 15 members who voted, including Marin County reps, apparently understood the need to fund rising infrastructure costs for the bridge by increasing tolls for the drivers who use it. In recent years, the board tolls have not risen as quickly as fares for Golden Gate Transit, which has also seen service cuts — a pattern that unfairly burdens bus riders and induces more car traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge district has also cut costs by eliminating toll takers and switching to all-electronic tolling, getting district employees to pay for a larger share of their benefits, and bringing in new revenue by charging for parking at the Larkspur Landing ferry terminal.

But that apparently wasn’t enough for Campos and Breed, who said they wouldn’t approve toll hikes until they were sure every possible cost-cutting measure had been taken, according to the SF Chronicle. ”We have to demonstrate that we have done everything we can before we vote to increase tolls,” Campos said. “It may be that toll increases are essential and necessary, but I don’t know that we’ve demonstrated that.”

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who also sits on the bridge board, pointed out that the hikes would only “go up at about the rate of inflation.”

Read more…

30 Comments

Breed Defends Record on Safer Streets for Biking; Plus: Other Supes Respond

Supervisor London Breed has issued a statement explaining her Twitter comments yesterday on safer streets for bicycling which led her to delete her account. Breed had responded to an inquiry sent out by Twitter user Patrick Traughber to every city supervisor and a few other city officials, asking, “In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling in San Francisco?”

Supervisor London Breed on Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

In her initial answer, Breed cited “the bad behavior of some bicyclist,” which led several people to respond in protest. Breed tried to clarify that she’s “not blaming anyone,” and that she’s “been fighting to help make streets safer for all,” but then shut down her account minutes into the discussion. Breed has a record of making abrasive comments on Twitter, arguing with constituents and getting press attention for it.

In her written statement, Breed defended her record of standing up for street redesign projects like Masonic Avenue and Fell and Oak Streets in the face of anti-bike vitriol. Here’s what she had to say:

I suspended my account because I realized twitter can be extremely time consuming and it’s too hard to have nuanced policy discussions in 140 characters. I want to take some time to think about how I use this medium in the future.

With respect to the bike exchange, my record is clear! I have been a consistent and effective advocate for bike projects in our city. I got the Oak and Fell bike lanes implemented well ahead of schedule. I led the effort to fund the Masonic Blvd project which includes dedicated bike lanes, and I’ve voted for every bike project that’s come before the Transportation Authority, including the popular bike share program just implemented in our city.

My point was not that I think bicyclists’ behavior should be an impediment to new projects. My point was bicyclists’ behavior is the complaint I hear most often from those who oppose the projects. So as a practical matter, those behavioral concerns — whether you think they’re accurate or inaccurate, right or wrong — make it harder to get new projects moving, harder to win public and political support. But that absolutely has not, and will not, stop me from fighting to win that support.

I’ve faced a lot of fire, a LOT of fire, over the Masonic blvd project and I’ve stood strong in my support. That’s my record. So it does bother me to see Masonic supporters criticizing me over a twitter post. But it is my fault for being unclear about a complicated topic on an inappropriate medium. That is why I am taking a break from that medium.

Breed deserves a lot of credit for supporting those safety improvements. And judging by her statement, she doesn’t think that policymakers should decide whether San Franciscans get to have safer streets based on the perceived behavior of people who use a particular mode of transportation.

Traughber’s question on Twitter yielded responses from a few other supervisors and District Attorney George Gascón, offering a glimpse into those officials’ understanding of how to make streets safer (or just how willing they are to respond to tweets).

Read more…

88 Comments

The Faulty Assumptions Behind Supervisor London Breed’s Bike Tweets

Screenshot from Mike Sonn

In response to a Twitter inquiry this morning about what she deems to be “the “biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling,” D5 Supervisor London Breed blamed “the bad behavior of some bicyclist” [sic]. She then argued with several Twitter users before suddenly deleting her Twitter account.

Mike Sonn got a screenshot of the initial tweet “in case she deletes it” (quick thinking), as well as [update below] some of Breed’s follow-up tweets. Breed said that she was just being honest, and argued that when she goes to community meetings about street safety, “they’re all about bad biking behavior,” which she has trouble defending.

The underlying assumption in this argument is that cycling is an activity for a distinct class of people, rather than just a way of getting around. According to this way of thinking, the city cannot implement proven redesigns that make streets safer for the general population until this “class” exhibits suitable behavior. Imagine if you applied the same logic to car infrastructure: No highway or garage would ever be built until we sorted out all the speeding, failure to yield, and distracted driving that kills thousands of Americans each year.

Lumping “cyclists” together as a class fails to consider the large number of San Franciscans who say they’d ride a bike more if streets were made safer. The perceived bad behavior of some people who already ride bikes should not dictate whether we make streets safer for mothers, kids, and all San Franciscans.

It’s very disappointing to hear this sort of nonsense from the supervisor who took credit for expediting the installation of the protected bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets. That (still incomplete) project has provided a safer, more inviting route for District 5 residents who might otherwise feel too intimidated to hop on a bike.

As for the actual barriers to safer streets for bicycling, a more accurate answer would be the lack of political leadership at City Hall to stand behind street safety redesigns and prioritize funding for bike infrastructure.

Update: Commenter murphstahoe posted his record of his Twitter conversation with Breed following the initial tweet:

Read more…

30 Comments

Bike to Work Day at City Hall: Lots of Pro-Bike Talk, Few Real Commitments

Elected officials and thousands of commuters took to two wheels for the 19th annual Bike to Work Day, welcomed by the new protected bike lane on Oak Street and the city’s first bicycle counter on Market Street. As in the past few years, the mayor and city supervisors gathered on the steps of City Hall to give speeches cheering bicycling, with some calling for the implementation of more bike lanes.

Supervisor David Chiu neglected to mention Polk Street in his Bike to Work Day speech. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The event saw record-breaking bike traffic counts, according to manual counts by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, which found that bikes accounted for 76 percent of eastbound vehicle traffic on Market at Van Ness Avenue between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. — a three percent increase in bike traffic over last year, and a nearly 30 percent increase since 2009.

By 9 a.m., the new digital bike counter on eastbound Market between Ninth and Tenth Streets displayed a total of 1,300 bicycle commuters. (That may be an underestimate, as riders who didn’t run over sensors in the bike lane appeared to not be counted.)

While city leaders had a few recent improvements to point to, important issues went unaddressed. At the podium, Mayor Ed Lee made no mention of the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy, which he has so far refused to fund.

Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors’ supposed bike champion, David Chiu, said nothing about Polk Street – the vital bicycling corridor on which the rally was held, where the SFMTA has ruled out plans for protected bike lanes on all but six blocks. His omission didn’t seem to sit well with several rally attendees, who, after Chiu’s speech, shouted “Polk Street!”

Mayor Ed Lee made no mention of the need to increase funding for bicycle infrastructure on the 19th annual Bike to Work Day. Meanwhile, Morgan Fitzgibbons (out of the frame) holds a sign in the back reading, "19th Annual Photo Op & Empty Promises Day.” Photo: Aaron Bialick

After the rally, when Chiu was asked if he planned to take a stand for protected bike lanes on Polk, he declined to do so, instead characterizing himself as a mediator between street safety advocates and parking-obsessed merchants. “I think there has not been enough dialogue between the various sides of this perspective,” he said. “On the one hand, we’ve had significant safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists on a thoroughfare that is used every single day by thousands of folks. On the other hand, the plight of our small businesses is very, very real.”

“I do hope we will have more protected bikeways around the city,” he said. “The question is if that should be for all of Polk Street.”

Chiu, along with Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos — who represent San Francisco on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission – did call for an increase in the city’s abysmal level of investment in bicycling, currently 0.46 percent of the capital budget.

“We’ve got to get real here,” said Wiener. “If we don’t put our money where our mouth is and start investing in bike infrastructure, in Muni, it’s not going to happen as fast as we need it to happen. I want to move fast, and I want us to invest and transform our city into a city where we can get around in all sorts of different ways, including biking.”

Read more…

47 Comments

Supes Urge Regional Funding for Complete Street Redesign of Masonic

Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed.

The plan to overhaul deadly Masonic Avenue with pedestrian safety upgrades and raised, protected bike lanes could get much of its funding from a regional grant program. The Masonic project has received a strong endorsement from three members of the Board of Supervisors, who sent a letter last week to the head of the SF County Transportation Authority, urging the agency to make Masonic a priority as it decides which projects it will recommend to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for funding.

Image: SF Planning Department's City Design Group

Chances that the $20 million project will get a substantial chunk from the MTC’s “One Bay Area Grant” are promising. When the SFCTA presented [PDF] its initial list of ten potential OBAG projects in December, Masonic was in the “upper tier.” It remains to be seen how much funding will go to Masonic, which along with other projects, such as the redesign of Second Street, is in the running for a limited pool of funds. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency applied for $16 million in OBAG funds for Masonic, but the SFCTA says only $35 million will be available for $54 million in funding requests citywide.

In their letter to SFCTA Acting Executive Director Maria Lombardo [PDF], Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed pointed to “a number of high-profile collisions and fatalities on this route in recent years,” asserting that “we must act fast to improve this corridor.”

We recognize there are multiple candidate projects with needs exceeding the total available funds, but we ask you to prioritize Masonic Avenue. We consider it a matter of public safety. The project will rectify what is now a fundamentally unsafe street design. It will also improve transit on a major north-south corridor, reduce environmental impact, and increase livability, thus meeting all the criteria established in the Transportation Plan.

Masonic is the only north-south bike route in the area, but is currently very unsafe and unappealing for most riders. The sidewalk bulb-outs, grade-separated bikeways, and tree-lined median are desperately needed on Masonic Avenue.

Read more…

29 Comments

Supervisors London Breed and Norman Yee Talk Transportation Priorities

This post supported by

San Francisco has two new faces on the Board of Supervisors: London Breed, representing District 5, and Norman Yee, representing District 7, both inaugurated last month after winning election in November. At a meeting of the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors last week, Streetsblog asked the two San Francisco natives to talk about their priorities for improving streets and transportation, both in the neighborhoods they represent and throughout the city.

London Breed

London Breed. Photo: Nathan Codd, Local Addition

District 5 is undergoing some major transportation improvements, including bike/ped upgrades on the Wiggle – one of the city’s most heavily-cycled routes for commuters in the western neighborhoods — and planned improvements on the N-Judah, Muni’s busiest line.

Representing neighborhoods like the Western Addition, Japantown, the Upper and Lower Haight, North of Panandle, the Inner Sunset, and Cole Valley, Supervisor Breed emphasized the long view of how transportation planning can accommodate a growing population. “We have to do more, because we have more people walking, more people using public transportation, more people riding bicycles, and the projections in the next 10 to 15 years are really high,” Breed said. “We’re going to have more people in San Francisco, and more people using these modes of transportation.”

“As supervisor, my goal is to look at data, to look at what’s happening, to look at ways in which we can improve the ability for people to get around,” she added. “We have to look at it from a larger scale. We can’t just piecemeal it together.”

Breed noted the challenges of procuring funding for transportation improvements like the unfunded $20 million plan to redesign Masonic Avenue for better walking, biking, and transit. “Unfortunately, it’s not an overnight solution, because the costs associated with making those changes are expensive,” she said.

Breed didn’t go into other specifics on pedestrian and bicycle safety at the meeting, but the “Transportation” page on her campaign website says she supports the SF Bicycle Coalition’s “Connecting the City” vision for a network of protected bikeways, and specifically endorses the Fell and Oak bike and pedestrian improvements underway:

As a kid, my friends and I used to roller skate the Wiggle long before we even knew it was ‘The Wiggle.’ I think the Wiggle should be an economic gateway and a shining example of what bike transit can be.

Read more…